Are you maximising diversity of thinking?

The way we receive and process information varies from person to person. And we all think differently to one another.

Yet from my experience, we tend to have a preference towards those people who “think like us”. How often have I heard people say, “great minds think alike”, but can that really be the case when we are all so different; great minds should be thinking slightly differently to create even better solutions.


This got me thinking. Without diversity of thinking, the human race would not have progressed. We would have no economy, no education, no internet, no smart phones and so on. And successful companies know how to harness the power of diverse thinking.

Maximise Your Diversity Of Thinking


I am not a psychologist or an HR expert. But I do have 3 quick and simple tips to help you create greater cognitive diversity in teams.

#1 Encourage Ideas One of the biggest blockers to diverse thinking is fear. People fear being wrong. They fear ridicule of others, who think and act differently to themselves. The outcome is that they have ideas but do not feel comfortable sharing them. These are ideas which could make a big difference.


Much of that is down to their previous experiences, where ideas were shot down because their thinking was different to others.


I once ran a departmental meeting on the topic of Creative Thinking. I explained what stops this and how to unlock ideas; within 5 minutes of the meeting ending, the flip chart (old school) was full to the rim with fresh ideas from a range of people who all thought differently to me and each other. There were some really fab ideas which would have remained buried had we not encouraged this. Their fear of ridicule had gone and we generated a much more diverse range of thoughts and ideas to the benefit of the marketing department and business.

Therefore, you need a culture where ideas are encouraged from everyone who is listened to without prejudice. Otherwise, diverse thoughts remain unheard.

#2 Avoid Group Thinking Right let’s all go to the Boardroom and come up with ideas. I will run the session. Let’s go now. I have encountered countless numbers of such brainstorming sessions – they do not work. And certainly, do not encourage diversity of thought. Ideas are dismissed too quickly. Only certain people get listened to. This is not a criticism; it is just how humans behave in such arenas. I have seen the people gravitate towards someone who agrees with whatever ideas they have because they are a friend or think a bit more similarly to you. Or you may dismiss someone’s ideas solely because you’ve dealt with someone similar in the past without a positive outcome – “we tried that before and it did not work”.

Look for solutions from your team anonymously. Encourage the concept of Soft Thinking.

This is where you do not force ideas and is a topic, I could go on about at length, but for this article I will just quote Einstein:

“A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.”

#3 Know Your Differences To have diverse thinking you need to know more about each other – key components of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and being stronger in EQ really helps diversity of thinking. There are lots of techniques and tools to help you. I can tell you that I have used Myers Briggs (MBTI) and the Strengths Finder assessment to great effect. Getting to understand each other really helps all forms of diversity, including the cognitive type.


Conclusion

You may not agree with the points above. That is good. Because great minds don’t always agree. The important matter is that you do see the importance of diverse thinking. How you tackle this is up to you. But make sure you don’t try and solve this alone – get a range of ideas to help solve this issue. Diversity of thought can become a powerful driving force in your business. But avoid getting carried away “thinking creatively” for the sake of it or it becomes this quarters’ whimsical focus. Encourage creative thinking and unlock ideas that will give you powerful solutions.

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